Google launched a pretty cool promotion in 2016 with the offer to store every photo and video taken on Pixels at original quality. The same promotion will apply this year with the release of the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL, but it now comes with a catch: The promotion expires in the year 2020.
Unfortunately, the phrasing of the new terms left room for interpretation, leaving many people concerned that all of their uploaded photos would suddenly count against their storage quota or may be converted to lower quality once the expiration date hit. Thanks to a teardown of the latest Google Photos update, we have definite confirmation that both your photos and your storage quota will remain safe and unmolested.
The features discussed below are probably not live yet, or may only be live for a small percentage of users. Unless stated otherwise, don't expect to see these features if you install the apk.
What happens when the free original storage deal expires?
Free, unlimited original-quality storage for photos and videos taken with Pixel through the end of 2020, and free, unlimited high-quality storage for photos taken with Pixel afterwards.
source: Google Store page
That text is clear about what happens with photos and videos taken after 2020, but it doesn't address what will happen to those that were already backed up on Google's servers. I have a hunch somebody at Google noticed there was some concern and added some explanation to the Photos app that leaves no uncertainty.
The text below spells out the basic terms, but it's one line in particular that leaves no doubt:
New items will back up in High quality (reduced file size, free unlimited storage). Items uploaded before %s will remain free at Original quality.
Basically, any photos and videos uploaded from your Pixel 2 will be grandfathered into lifetime free storage at original quality. They will not be compressed into a smaller file, they will not count against your storage quota, and they will not be deleted.
<string name="photos_backup_freestorage_full_release_pixel_back_up_your_photos_2017_description">Free unlimited storage for full resolution photos & videos uploaded from your Pixel device before %s</string>
<string name="photos_backup_settings_freestorage_impl_new_pixel_free_storage">Photos & videos uploaded from your Pixel before %s get unlimited free storage at Original quality</string>
<string name="photos_backup_freestorage_full_release_pixel_offer_expired_title">Free storage at Original quality has expired</string>
<string name="photos_backup_freestorage_full_release_pixel_updated_backup_quality_description">New items will back up in High quality (reduced file size, free unlimited storage). Items uploaded before %s will remain free at Original quality.</string>
<string name="photos_backup_freestorage_full_release_pixel_updated_backup_quality_summary">New photos will back up in High quality</string>
Hopefully that clears up any confusion or concerns. Just make sure your New Year's Eve plans at the end of 2020 take place near Wi-Fi, because anything uploaded from a Pixel 2 after midnight will turn into a pumpkin.
Around the same time as this post, Google also updated the expiration date of the free original-quality unlimited storage offer to January 15th, 2021. So that's a couple more weeks to get in those shots, and New Year's Eve is definitely covered... at least as long as your phone doesn't go missing for 16 days after a wild night of partying. Hey, it's been known to happen.
Pet photos, but just the important ones
In the last teardown of Photos, we saw that Google was going to take on the difficult task of identifying your beloved pets cats and dogs. Not much has changed in this update, but there is one change to a string that is a little amusing. The original caption for this feature has been adjusted from saying it was for your cats and dogs to specifically emphasize that the photos are "organized by important cats and dogs."
<string name="photos_search_explore_pets_impl_notification_desc">Using your photos cats & dogs</string>
<string name="photos_search_explore_pets_impl_notification_desc">View your photos organized by important cats & dogs</string>
I guess that means your neighbor's cat isn't going to make the list just because he chose the perfect time to photobomb you during a cookout one time.
Also, as a very minor note, the new string below indicates that "People & Pets" will likely become one of the categories that can be chosen when you tap the search bar.
<string name="photos_search_explore_category_people_pets">People & Pets</string>
The APK is signed by Google and upgrades your existing app. The cryptographic signature guarantees that the file is safe to install and was not tampered with in any way. Rather than wait for Google to push this download to your devices, which can take days, download and install it just like any other APK.